Money Matters - Simplified

Sneaky rodents, blessing in disguise for the growth of tropical forests?

The vanished gigantic gomphotheres which are animals similar in looks to the extinct elephant, like the Amebelodon once stretched the breadth across the America spreading seeds of big trees as they swayed along different places, aiding in the process of pollination. As these mammoth animals are now dead and buried, how are the seeds being spread now? A report published by the science experts in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, has indicated that radio tags had been utilized by the scientists that clearly point towards the rodents that carry and then hide the tree seeds deep in the ground.

They are busy trying to hide their catch from their other rodent friends and thus end up going far and wide. These stealthy small knowing animals are a blessing in disguise for the rescue of the tropical forests.

It was seen that one of the seeds had been snuggled in the paws of half meter long rodents 36 agoutis that is found in jungles of Central and South America. The original agouti, a large rabbit sized rodent, carried the seed to an average distance of 8.75m from the parent woody tree.

It may have been stolen from there by another agouti and carried on forward to a larger distance. When it was unearthed finally the total distance was calculated to about 68 m from the parent plant."Agoutis moved seeds at a scale that none of us had ever imagined," said lead researcher Patrick Jansen, who holds posts at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama and at Wageningen and Groningen Universities in The Netherlands.

Trees such as the Astrocaryum standleyanum palm had been given an important place in the study. These trees and it was discovered that the survival of this tree is not possible without seed dispersal. Astrocaryum trees furnish out an abundant reserve of hard-shelled nut fruits. For the survival of the trees it is necessary for the genes to intermingle otherwise a very tiny number of trees will show up and will eventually fade out and die.

The gigantic Gomphotheres, the initial seed disperser in all probability may have consumed the full fruit for their sustenance and then defecated the endocarps as it is. As they ran around wildly in large jungle areas the seed dispersals were possible. Contrary to the mammoth elephants the rodents reside in well-identified tiny home areas but their movement was captured by Radio tagging by STRI scientist, Joe Wright.

Camera-traps were also positioned to gain information about the entombment of seeds and the rival agoutis stealing them and rushing off with them elsewhere. "Previously, researchers had observed seeds being moved and buried up to five times," believed Ben Hirsch, another research team member. "But in this system, it seems that the re-caching behavior is on steroids."